By Dave Moore, Data Journalist and Staff Writer
The leaders of two nonprofit organizations new to the Dallas Region discussed their missions to bridge the gap from entry-level jobs to higher-skilled, higher-paying positions on Nov. 29 at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s third Education to Employment Outlook Series.
Jamai Blivin, Founder and CEO of Innovate+Educate, and Garrett Moran, President of Year Up, said Dallas’ growing economy in information technology, health care and retail services made the region a logical next step for their work.
Year Up is already working with about 200 Dallas Region residents, said Moran, whose nonprofit serves about 3,000 students nationwide. Innovate+Educate, meanwhile, aims to train more than 2,000 individuals in the Dallas Region annually to help participants move from lower-skill, lower-paid positions to the next level.
The Dallas Regional Chamber invited both nonprofit leaders as part of its mission of working with educators and employers to help create better career options for students and to establish a highly trained workforce for the Dallas Region’s economy.
Event moderator Alfreda B. Norman, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said one misperception many prospective employees have is that if they don’t go to college, they must settle for entry-level jobs, with little chance for advancement.
Year Up and Innovate+Educate both aim to bridge that gap by preparing potential workers for positions that have opportunities for advancement built in.
Year Up, aimed at low-income high-school graduates ages 18-24, trains young adults with job skills and coursework that is eligible for college credit. Virtually all students who complete their first six months of training – which is Information Technology intensive, and emphasizes professional development – are then paired up with corporate partners and mentors, and serve internships in the program’s remaining six months. Year Up operates in 16 major metro areas, including the Dallas Region, and endeavors to fill 12 million higher-skill jobs with 6 million young adults who are looking for work.
Innovate+Educate works with employees and employers to help workers with entry-level jobs progress higher in the ranks of their companies. The nonprofit, which has several ventures across the U.S., encourages companies to value their employees’ life skills as they might pursue a formal degree or certification.
Blivin said the top core competency employers are looking for in hires is Excel, followed by customer service skills, Microsoft Office, scheduling, and the ability to have successful contact with customers.
Moran said Year Up has plenty of corporate partners but is looking for participants, who sometimes question whether the nonprofit – which exacts no fee from its trainees – is too good to be true.
“If you know of any 18- to 24-year-olds looking for a job, send them to us,” Moran said, adding that the biggest obstacle for employment in that population is obtaining reliable transportation.
Event series sponsors were Oncor, State Farm Insurance Companies, Texas Instruments, and the University of North Texas System.
Early Matters Dallas is a historic, broad-based coalition of business, civic, education, philanthropic, and nonprofit organizations and volunteers who believe that quality early learning for all children can change the economic trajectory of our region in one generation. Launched in 2015 in concert with Early Matters Houston, the partnership is working collectively to raise awareness about the importance of high-quality early learning today for a strong economy tomorrow. Early Matters was originally formed in September 2014 by the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP), and the Dallas Regional Chamber and GHP partner regularly on a variety of issues important to the business community, including education and advocacy.
In November 2016, Early Matters Dallas Governing Board members and leaders held an inaugural two-day summit to explore issues related to kindergarten readiness and third grade reading in Dallas County, and to raise awareness within the business community around the need for sustainable funding for quality early learning. Every dollar invested in early childhood education yields an $8.60 return on investment associated with remedial education, criminal justice, and public assistance. This is due in part to the fact that 90 percent of the brain develops by age 5, yet only 5 percent of public dollars are spent on early childhood education. In Dallas County alone, 43 percent of kindergartners do not start ready to learn, limiting their future achievement.
The pipeline to building a skilled workforce begins with high-quality pre-kindergarten, and is central to the work done by Early Matters Dallas and partners like the Dallas Regional Chamber. The top predictor of a child’s third-grade readiness is whether that child entered kindergarten ready to learn. Consequentially, children who are not reading at grade level by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. In the coming years, more than half of new jobs in Texas will require some form of postsecondary education.
In the upcoming 85th Texas Legislative Session, Early Matters leaders and a number of their 150 partner organizations will make a strong case for increased financial resources allocated to this critical, high-return-on-investment area. The aligned advocacy efforts of Dallas and Houston will represent one in four children in Texas.
How can companies around the DFW Metroplex help? Start by being an advocate for early learning within your company and your personal networks. Invite an Early Matters Dallas Governing Board Member to speak with your company about the importance of quality early learning. Sign up for advocacy alerts through the Early Matters Dallas website. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor supporting high-quality early learning. Volunteer, and ask your colleagues and employees to volunteer, as a literacy tutor to young children and/or to spread the word in your company and community about pre-K registration in the spring.
There are also many ways to support employees who are parents of young children. The roles they play in their children’s earliest days set the trajectory of lifelong success and happiness. Early Matters Dallas is asking members of the regional corporate community to engage employees in learning more about the importance of early learning and to become advocates for change for all children in the Dallas Region. For more information and resources, visit earlymattersdallas.org, Facebook (/EarlyMattersDallas), or Twitter (@EarlyMattersDFW).
By Steve Harris, Holmes Murphy & Associates, Special Contributor
As a Dallas Regional Chamber Tomorrow Fund Investor, Holmes Murphy & Associates understands the value of working together to make our region the most desirable place to live, work and do business. We will not get there unless our corporate citizens invest today to help the Dallas Independent School District (and other learning institutions) develop graduates that have the skills needed to power our businesses for tomorrow. After attending the Principal For A Day orientation through a partnership between the DRC and Dallas ISD, I felt ready to tackle whatever the kids, staff and faculty threw my way at George H. W. Bush Elementary School.
I was warmly welcomed by Carol Crowling, Principal of the only Dallas ISD public school in Addison, on Oct. 11. Principal Crowling’s multiple BBA, MBA, CPA and Master of Education degrees demonstrated her capability as a “CEO” in her own right. We did announcements, held meetings, fire drills and interviewed a job candidate who would help families with kids diagnosed with dyslexia.
Exhausted at the end of the day, I could not help but reflect on the differences between our worlds:
My favorite observation was watching a fifth-grade teacher who had total command of her class. The kids were having so much fun competing in a game to answer the science questions, they forgot they were learning. She reminded me of my older sister, Natalie, a DISD professional educator at the top of her game.
During a break, Principal Crowling was hugged by a student and was alerted that she had received a letter from her school’s namesake (George H.W. Bush). (I learned much that day, including the fact that former U.S. presidents do not have to use postage stamps.) The letter served as a reminder that if a 92-year-old man named George Herbert Walker Bush could take time to invest in our public schools, maybe we should all do the same.
Editor’s note: Business and civic leaders are invited to share and gain knowledge in Dallas schools by participating in Principal For A Day, a collaboration between the Dallas Independent School District and the Dallas Regional Chamber. To learn more, visit the Chamber’s Principal For A Day page.
Former Dallas school board member and current Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath exhorted members of the Dallas Regional Chamber to take ownership of public education during the Chamber’s State of Public Education event Wednesday, Sept. 21, at the downtown Dallas Sheraton conference center.
Morath’s speech updated members on the Texas Education Agency’s efforts to recruit, retain and to support teachers and principals, and the challenges it faces in assuring that all Texas students receive a strong education.
Morath, whose service as head of the Texas Education Agency began Jan. 4, displayed a slide to the crowd that described a widening gulf in Texas students’ college admission test scores, between children of low-income homes, and children of sufficient-income households. The chart showed that less than 9 percent of low-income Texas students received passing ACT/SAT scores, while more than a third of the other students received passing scores. Morath indicated that population of low-income students is growing in Texas.
“The system of public education in Texas is performing as well as it ever has,” said Morath, who in 2011 left his CEO job at a successful software company, Minute Menu Systems LLC, so he could focus on working as a trustee for Dallas ISD. “I don’t think people recognize this. Our educators have consistently gotten better. The public policy apparatus that our state lawmakers have created … has made consistent improvements in performance.”
The problem, he said, is that the educational system hasn’t evolved fast enough to keep pace with an economy that has a growing need for graduates with higher-order thinking skills.
“It’s just that the economy is too complicated relative to where it was in 1950,” he said. “We’re making progress; we’re not making progress fast enough. This graph shows this in gory details.”
Morath said key in determining whether the state will overcome that challenge is involvement from all Texans. He says the public must demand excellence in public schools and take an active role in helping to improve schools.
“If you like this plan, the sort of changes that we’re trying to push, and say, ‘Mike, good job. We’re glad you’ve got it figured out.’ Will that be an end to it? We will fail. I will fail. Public schools are schools that the public owns. If we do not take responsibility for what happens in our schools, if we do not step up and support the changes that our kids need … if we do not, in our representative democracy … demand improvements for all children, then we won’t get there.”
After his presentation, Morath joined in a panel discussion with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, DeSoto ISD Superintendent Dr. David Harris and Yasmin Bhatia, CEO of the Uplift Education charter school system, which has 15 campuses across North Texas. All three discussed their need for more public and state government support, and their district’s efforts to help prepare students for higher education and to land living-wage jobs in the Dallas Region’s workforce.
One question focused on the most-important actions legislators should take in their upcoming 85th Session.
“It goes back to laying a solid foundation,” said Dr. Harris. “It’s a proven fact that students who have a good, solid, pre-K experience, with good teachers, and good curriculum, by the time they reach third grade, they’re going to be reading at or above a third-grade level. That comes at a cost. At a cost of paying teachers. It comes at a cost of having a strong curriculum in place. It comes at a cost of ensuring that all those things that make up a learning environment are in place. It’s costly. And on top of that, we’re not getting full funding for those pre-K students. If we know something works, and has been proven, why don’t we just invest the money into it, to make sure it’s a success for all students?”
Superintendent Hinojosa said he, too, would like to focus on pre-K spending and other programs that advance education, but that he’s worried that the legislature will allow money to be directed away from districts like the Dallas Independent School District.
Hinojosa said that because Dallas ISD is losing enrollment, the district might also face losing money due to Texas “Robin Hood” laws, which require districts with higher property valuations to send tax money to property-tax-poor districts elsewhere across Texas.
“I need the state to do no harm,” he said. “That’s the Hippocratic oath. But I’ve got a feeling, with the Supreme Court ruling as they have, we won’t get any more money. We’re facing recapture at one point. With public school choice, some people believe they should be able to take that money and give it to parents, to give to non-public schools. We accept charter schools. We accept that we have to compete, but do no harm.”
Bhatia, meanwhile, said that she hopes a top priority for the legislature will be the equal funding for charter schools in Texas. Currently, charter schools received an average of $1,000 less per student than traditional public schools, she said.
Before Texas’ first Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program could open this year at Seagoville High School, the interests of two Fortune Global 500 companies, North Texas education and business leaders, and the State of Texas had to connect.
The DRC engaged in behind-the-scenes work necessary to bring together the key players, among them: Dallas-based AT&T, Accenture PLC, the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD), the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) and the State of Texas.
In short, P-TECH is a new way of incorporating sought-after 21st Century job skills – such as installing complex security systems, telecommunications equipment and lighting systems — into high-school curricula. Aside from receiving skill-specific training, the students also work with industry mentors, and earn associates’ degrees and industry certificates in career paths they’ve chosen. This combined academic and practical approach to learning provides employers with a sorely needed hire-ready workforce.
Businesses across the Dallas-Fort Worth region cite their number one challenge as finding and keeping talent and skilled workers to fill their jobs of today and build their workforce of tomorrow. The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) is committed to leading the area’s effort to “education for employment” by providing quality and access to our local education system.
The business case for educating for employment is compelling, especially to fill critical workforce needs. However, it requires a fundamental shift in our education pipeline and new innovative educational strategies. The first P-TECH school opened in 2011 in New York City through a coordinated effort by IBM, New York City Department of Education, City University of New York and others. Since then, 40 others have opened across the United States.
Here’s an insider’s sequence of events describing how the DRC helped P-TECH launch at Dallas ISD:
“The staff of the Dallas Regional Chamber has been one of our integral partners involved in bringing educational, business, and government leaders together to support the Collegiate Academies,” says DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa.
The Chamber’s involvement in the North Texas P-TECH initiative fits squarely in its mission to help the Dallas region to become the most prosperous places to live, work and to do business in the United States.
“It is in the long-term best interests of DRC members and regional companies to invest in and advocate for a world-class local education system to create a pipeline of highly skilled, highly trained workers to meet the region’s future workforce demands,” said Dale Petroskey, president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. Seven more P-TECH programs are slated for Dallas ISD high schools for 2017, and the Dallas Regional Chamber has been working steadily to recruit industry partners for them, and helping education partners hone their curricula to meet industry needs. These programs opened classes this Fall as Collegiate Academies while awaiting their state-wide designations as Early College High Schools.
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